ESA Considering Low-Orbit Satellites to Improve Galileo System

The idea of using low-earth-orbit satellites to provide greater GPS/GNSS accuracy isn’t limited to commandeering the Starlink constellation. The European Space Agency is exploring the idea of using low-flying satellites to increase Galileo’s accuracy and robustness: make it possible to use indoors, make it more resistant to jamming and interference, and enable positioning at the centimetre level. They’re planning an in-orbit demonstration of around six satellites to test the proposition. The satellites would supplement the existing Galileo constellation rather than replace it: for one thing, they would rely on the Galileo satellites’ atomic clocks, which would allow the low-flying satellites to be an order of magnitude smaller in size. [Universe Today]

Spacecraft Will Test Satnav Reception from Lunar Orbit

More on the astonishing idea that Earth-orbiting GNSS satellites can be used for navigation at the Moon. The European Space Agency reports that among the instruments carried by the upcoming Lunar Pathfinder commercial mission will be a 1.4 kg satnav receiver that will test its ability to receive GPS and Galileo signals from lunar orbit. “Satnav position fixes from the receiver will be compared with conventional radio ranging carried out using Lunar Pathfinder’s X-band transmitter as well as laser ranging performed using a retroreflector contributed by NASA and developed by the KBR company.” Lunar Pathfinder is currently scheduled to launch in 2024.

Previously: Many Moon MapsCan GPS Be Used on the Moon?

Galileo Approved in the United States

Galileo logoThe FCC has approved the use of the European Galileo satellite navigation system in mobile devices in the United States. Galileo is similar to GPS and the Russian GLONASS, but the satellite constellation won’t be complete until 2020 or so. Even so, devices like recent iPhones (from the 8 and X on) have support built-in. (Many smartphones have had GLONASS support for years.) FCC press release.